HOWTO: IMPROVE THE CABLE SHIFT ON YOUR 996 GEARBOX
Modern Porsches have what are usually reassuringly smooth and precise cable-operated gear shifts, but even these can become stiff and awkward, especially in hard-driven cars like the GT3 – and sometimes the cables become detached from their bracket on the
Revitalising the cable shift on modern 911s, Boxsters and Caymans
Another month, another 911 gear-shift story. No apologies for any apparent duplication or repetition, though, because the car shown here, an early 996 GT3, is in this respect – and many others, of course – about as different from the 911SC that we looked at back in the September issue as it is possible to be.
The system is cable-operated, for a start, where the SC’S relies on the automotive equivalent of a railroad turnout linkage, and we replaced as a matter of routine the entire plastic gear-shift mechanism – no point in a car of this nature (and potential value) taking any chances with the quality and reliability of the vital interface between your hand and the gearbox behind you, transmitting perhaps 380bhp and 385Nm. The methodology shown is very slightly peculiar to the GT3, but the broad principles are much the same across the entire 996 Carrera range, as well as the 997. (Both the Boxster/cayman have a similar set-up, too, but in those cars the cables run through the engine compartment, requiring the removal of both access panels. Some other time.)
The centre tunnel finisher has to come off – which can seem a little daunting, but is actually quite straightforward – and you then need to get yourself safely under the car in order to disconnect the rear end of each of the two cables from the right-hand side of the transmission casing. Normally these would be simply clipped into place on a sturdy metal bracket, but such has proved to be the inherent fragility of the clips that many cars – like this one – will have had them further secured with common-orgarden plastic cable-ties. And unsurprisingly Porsche-torque’s Sid Malik – our man on the spanners for the day – later secured the new cables in precisely the same way. Once bitten, twice shy.
We should confess that on this occasion we came into the job a short time after Sid had started work, and so missed the preliminary dismantling stages inside the car. For that reason we have shown – unusually for one of these how-to stories – all aspects of the reassembly process. Bear that in mind, then, before you start casually pulling your own car apart.
No special tools are necessary, although you will need a solidly mounted large vice to hold the old gear-shift mechanism firmly enough to allow you to pull the trimmed knob off the blade-like shift lever proper. You will also need some rubber lubricant, to help the cables slide through their large sealing grommet, and then the grommet itself into the hole in the centre tunnel.
The two cables (and they are sold only as a pair) currently cost £210 plus VAT from Porsche, and the shift mechanism just £131 plus VAT – another good reason for binning the old one unless it is very obviously in perfect condition. Fitting times will vary depending upon your abilities and facilities – and any other tasks you find need doing, such as cleaning and painting the shift cables’ mounting bracket, or perhaps changing the transmission oil – but Sid charged this out at three hours. And that, remarkably for a car of this specialised nature, is about it. Full details in the accompanying photos, and their hopefully exhaustively informative captions. PW
Modern Porsches have a gear-shift lever linked to the transmission by what are essentially hightech Bowden cables. Simple and effective, but over a long period they can become almost as stiff and obstructive as the old-fashioned rodand-pivot mechanism of the air-cooled cars. And the spring-clips securing them to the bracket on the side of the transmission often fail, an obvious further cause of poor shift quality – or even missed shifts, with all the consequences they bring. The cables are not too difficult to replace, although you do need safe access to the underside of the car. Vehicle shown here is an early 996 GT3, but the same basic principles apply right across the board to the contemporary Carreras, plus the Boxster and Cayman. Thanks to Sid Malik at Porsche-torque in Uxbridge for his help with this how-to story: 01895 814446; porsche-torque.co.uk
It is not strictly necessary to replace the entire gear-shift lever, as well as the cables, but given both its modest price and its influence on the shift quality, why not go the extra mile? It comes from the factory with a white plastic clip securing the lever in neutral. Leave that in place until, with the gearbox also in neutral, the cables have been attached. This should ensure that all seven ratios can be selected without additional adjustment. The outer cables are secured via springclips not unlike the ones at the gearbox end, and then the inners can be pressed down into the channels emerging from the base of the shift lever. Let them assume their own position; don’t apply any longitudinal tension. Obviously the matching ridges and grooves are designed to provide a secure grip, and the spring-loaded covers, flicked from their open position with a screwdriver blade, finish the job. Fit the plastic cover over the cable ends, and finally remove shift lever’s temporary locking bar
The two new cables should be a nice, positive fit in the bracket, slotting into place with an audible click; push the ends of each clip home with a screwdriver blade to make sure. Just as the socket on the old cable was prised off the ball with a screwdriver, gently squeeze the new one on with a pair of water-pump pliers. Cable-ties shouldn’t be necessary at this stage, but wisely, and based on long experience, Sid was taking no chances (left). They certainly can’t do any harm